Today is going to be a bad day. They’ve told me I need to wear my Service Dress Uniform and go see the commander. I knew going to that party the other day would be a bad idea. I don’t even know why this is such a big deal, everybody underage drinks.
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
They’re all a bunch of hypocrites. Sergeant Michaels always tells me of all the times he and his other Defender buddies used to have fake ID cards and go to the clubs. I don’t even remember how to wear this uniform, I’m a cop, we never wear blues.
As soon as I arrived at the Squadron, Staff Sergeant Michaels greeted me at the parking lot and said I looked a hot mess, so he proceeded to fix my occupational badge, which happened to be the only fixable item on my uniform. I guess I could have taken my uniform to the dry cleaners, but I didn’t have enough time, I found out about this yesterday. He asked if I was alright, and I said yes. What was I going to say, obviously I’m pissed that I’m here.
I walked into the building and headed over to the command section. Once in the command section I was greeted by Lieutenant Colonel Pollock’s Secretary who instructed me to wait on the couch. I cannot lie, I was nervous. Having to see the commander in service dress is never a good thing, I had already seen other Airmen lose their stripes from similar visits like these. I don’t want to lose a stripe, I’m only four months away from being a Senior Airman.
The First Sergeant came out of the commander’s office, he said something to SSgt Michaels and asked if I was ready. I nodded yes. He told me he was going to go back into the office, and directed me to knock before entering and report to Lt Col Pollock. So there I stood, outside of the office about to knock on the door, but all I wanted to do was just run away from this place.
I knocked on the commander’s door three times with some force, I didn’t want him to take me for a weak or unconfident Airman. He said “Enter” rather firmly. I opened the door, and marched to the front of his desk where he sat looking down at a piece of paper. The First Sergeant stood right next to him, and my supervisor stood to the side of the room at parade rest. “Sir, Airman King reports as ordered!” I said and followed it with a salute. The commander saluted back, and proceeded to read from the paper.
“Airman First Class Brandon King, you have been summoned to my office because I’m offering you an Article 15 for the following offense:
You, who knew or should have known of your duties at or near Moreland Air Force Base, Texas, on or about twenty January two thousand eighteen, were derelict in the performance of those duties in that you willfully failed to refrain from drinking alcoholic beverages while under the legal age of twenty one, as it was your duty to do. You’re dismissed.”
I popped a salute, and walked out of the office. My heart pounded, I was confused at the whole situation. An Article 15? My supervisor and the First Sergeant walked out of the commander’s office, and the First Sergeant carried a blue folder with him, which he opened on top of the secretary’s desk. He called me up to him, and told me I had an appointment with my lawyer right away, and gave me the entire folder adding that it contained all of the evidence against me.
I walked out of the Squadron and hurried to my car. Once in the car I quickly opened up the folder to see about this said evidence. The first thing on the right side of it was a Police Report, one of those that I had seen in training, and even done myself on a couple of occasions.
The list of SUBJECTS was long: Airman First Class Christopher Matthews, Airman Bradley Leal, Airman First Class Kimberly Stone, Airman First Class Stephanie Jackson, Airman First Class Corey Taylor, and Airman First Class Brandon King. How did I end up on this report? As I flipped through the pages I found the written statements, there were only two, one from A1C Jackson, and one from Taylor.
I could not believe A1C Taylor’s statement, I thought he wasn’t like that, we’ve hung out at parties before and he didn’t seem like someone who would snitch me out. I read the whole statement, and sure enough, I found his answer to the question of Who was also drinking at the party? His response contained the names of A1C Matthews, Amn Leal, A1C Stone, and mine. Right below the listed names followed the question of How much did they drink to which he answered at least five beers. A1C Taylor took it a step further and said that A1C Matthews had purchased the alcohol for all of us.
I drove away and headed over to the Area Defense Counsel’s office. I entered the office and saw doors closed everywhere with a sign that read Wait here, we will be with you shortly. I shuffled through some magazines laying on the table, and then got on my phone. A Technical Sergeant opened the door, and asked me to fill out some paperwork.
As I began filling out the paperwork, most of the questions had to do with asking me about previous misconduct, but this had been my first time getting in trouble, so I finished it quickly. The Technical Sergeant came back, told me to go with her, and asked for my folder with the Article 15 paperwork and the evidence in it. She reviewed the paperwork, and began to explain the Article 15 process.
“Alright, so you’ve been offered an Article 15.”
“Ok. Can I refuse it? Why do you say offer, ma’am?”
“Because as of right now that’s what it is. You have to make your elections, but you’ll talk to your attorney about that.”
“What are my elections?”
“Look right here at the AF Form 3070. You have four choices. One of them is to let your commander know whether or not you consulted a lawyer. Next, and this is the key choice, is to decide whether to waive your right to court-martial and accept nonjudicial punishment proceedings or demand trial by court-martial in lieu of nonjudicial punishment.”
“What should I do? Should I go to court?”
“Definitely not, or at least that’s not what I recommend. If you go to court the maximum sentence goes from just losing a stripe or two with an Article 15, to spending a year in prison with the court-martial, not to mention a bad-conduct discharge.”
“I don’t want to go to jail.”
“Then don’t elect to go to court.”
“But I don’t want to just take the Article 15.”
“Accepting nonjudicial punishment proceedings doesn’t mean that you’re saying you’re guilty. It’s simply a choice of forum, and letting the commander be the judge and jury.”
“So I can still fight it?”
“Yes, you can.”
“Then I want to fight it. I read the statements and A1C Taylor lied about me underage drinking. I did not. Maybe he confused me with somebody else.”
“Do you know of anybody at the party that can attest to you not drinking that night?”
“Yes, several people saw me there and know I did not drink.”
“Ok. I will send you a response template so you can start working on your side of the story. I will also send you character statement templates, maybe your supervisor or other individuals can attest to your credibility. And lastly, a template for those individuals who were at the party to say they did not see you drinking all night. I will set you up for an appointment with your lawyer, but make sure that you have all of these items with you by the time of your appointment, we only have a couple of days.”
“Roger. I will get this and come back with everything we talked about. Thank you, ma’am!”
Suddenly I felt better about the whole situation. I know my commander will look at all of the evidence presented and will make the right decision, I just need to do my part.
I gathered all of the items that I needed and presented them to my attorney. He made adjustments to my response, and reviewed all documents. After my sit-down with him, I went to the First Sergeant to make my elections. I elected to say that I consulted with an attorney, hard to lie about that. Then I elected to waive my right to court-martial and accept nonjudicial punishment proceedings. I chose to attach a written presentation, and also chose a personal appearance with the commander and that it be public.
I really did not want a personal appearance, but my lawyer said that it would be good. I simply thanked the commander for considering my written matters in making his decision, and apologized for the whole situation and that although I held my innocence, I should have known better than to be there in the first place. I walked out of the office, and waited to hear what the commander would decide.
I must have waited in the lobby for about an hour, with heavy anxiousness knowing that my Air Force career could be hanging in the balance. The First Sergeant came out and invited me back into the commander’s office. I stood there at attention knowing that one of two things were about to happen, I would be found guilty and possibly lose a stripe, or not guilty and somehow this process called an Article 15 would be my favorite thing in the world.
The commander finally said “Airman First Class Brandon King, I have considered the evidence, including any matters you have presented, and find that…” He took a long pause here and my heart wanted to escape my chest as he continued “…nonjudicial punishment is not appropriate or you did not commit the offense alleged. I hereby terminate these proceedings.”
I could not believe it, I had the biggest smile in a while, and could not contain my happiness, but he continued.
“However, you need to be smarter, Airman King. Do not put yourself in this situation again where someone can accuse you of this type of wrong doing. You’re a valuable member of our team, so make sure you practice better judgment next time.”
“Yes sir. Thank you, sir!” Is all I could muster.